Sometimes when I send questions to authors I’m never quite sure what kind of responses I’m going to get. I knew today’s W.O.W. was going to be a good one when Renée Ahdieh admitted that her earliest writing was Nancy Drew fanfiction!! Love it! But seriously, one of the things I love about Renee and her writing journey is her take on the purity of the writing process. As she states below, “Write because you have to write. Not because you need someone to tell you you should.”
Many thanks to Renée for sharing her writing journey today…
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Renée: In 2009, I started writing a contemporary romance novel. Then I began the process of learning how to write a query letter and how to find an agent. Prior to that, I mostly wrote for fun. As a child, I wrote a lot of horrible poetry and stuff that really amounted to nothing more than Nancy Drew fanfiction.
Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?
Renée: I completed my first Young Adult manuscript in 2010. It was awful. Lots of dreck about beautifully broken boys and girls who were strong, but devoid of fully-realized personalities. I never queried it, but it was a terrific learning experience (translation: my dog now uses it as a step onto the couch)
Amy: Your debut, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN is a reimagining of THE ARABIAN NIGHTS. What inspired you to put a new twist on this classic?
Renée: My husband is Persian, and his parents have this amazing tapestry on the wall of their living room. At a distance, it looks like a hundred different vignettes strung together at random. It’s actually tales from 1001 Nights. This provided the initial inspiration for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. I’m also a huge fan of Paulo Coelho. He wrote The Alchemist based on a story from THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, and I thought it would be neat to write a Young Adult version of the tale of Scheherazade.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish THE WRATH AND THE DAWN? If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?
Renée: I had both critique partners and beta readers for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, and I find them to be of absolute necessity. Not only do they keep me on target, but they also provide much-needed support in a world that can be a bit lonely. Writing is a very solitary profession, and there are times when self-doubt becomes rather pervasive. It’s so important to have good friends around to champion you and your writing.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Renée: I liken the process of querying and finding an agent to a pride-swallowing siege. Suffice to say, it took me a while to get where I am today. This is not an industry for the faint of heart. Of course, you need talent and timing on your side to make it work, but, above all, you need tenacity.
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN?
Renée: I actually didn’t have to query any. My agent signed me off the book I wrote prior to writing THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. Alas, that book didn’t sell. It was a Young Adult urban fantasy. It came close, but the market at the time wasn’t biting.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
Renée: A mix of the two. I queried the novel that garnered me representation for a few months, give or take. My agent made an offer after two weeks. Once she made an offer, I received two more offers of representation. At the time, I had about ten fulls/partials out with different agents, from about sixty queries on that particular manuscript.
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Barbara Poelle? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Renée: Crazy! I was completely taken unawares. She didn’t set up a time to chat or anything. She just called, out of the blue. Honestly, this kind of no-holds-barred attitude was really what convinced me she was the right agent for me. I could tell she was passionate about my work and passionate about her job. I knew that if she went after things she wanted with this kind of zeal, she would be an incredible advocate for me.
Amy: If you met a fellow writer on the street and they told you they were on the brink of giving up on their publishing dream, what advice would you give them?
Renée: First, I would tell them I absolutely understand the sense that they’re slogging up a hill with an impossible incline. I have many rejections to my name, from many failed manuscripts. But then I would ask them why they want to quit. If they said they felt discouraged because they’d been met with a great deal of rejection, I’d ask them what they were seeking to find in publication. For me, I could never give up writing, because it’s so much a part of what makes me happy. It’s true that a lot of writers seek the validation of a book deal or a publishing contract, but I don’t know that that sense of validation ever really comes with achieving those things. There’s always another mountain to scale, whether it be sales numbers or bestseller lists. If you don’t find validation in the words, then it’s never going to come from someone or something else. Write because you have to write. Not because you need someone to tell you you should.
A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
Renée Ahdieh is an honors graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a highrise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds.
She lives in North Carolina with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. Her young adult fantasy THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, a reimagining of The Arabian Nights, will be published by Penguin/Putnam in 2015. For more on Renée, check out her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.